20 April 2016
Passover begins tonight, bringing an end to the frequent conversations and articles about “getting ready,” including the cleaning, the shopping, the preparations and of course, the relatives.
What will we make of this extraordinary holiday, with its focus on freedom, dignity and self-determination? Surely, the soaring – and timeless – themes of Passover will transcend the details of rituals and recipes. Or will they? I must admit a discomfort with the commercialization of the holiday, its synonymy with “spring cleaning” and even this year’s conversations about the “kitniyot dilemma.” I certainly understand the attraction and importance of yearly and idiosyncratic family rituals which bind us with our past as we link to the future. But I am afraid something might be getting lost in the cacophony of preparation: the still, quiet voice of freedom.
Freedom can never be taken for granted – ask anyone who has experienced dictatorship or incarceration. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who have defended our freedom and continue to do so today. As Jews, we now live with more freedom than at any other time in our history since the days of the Temple. With freedom comes dignity and with dignity, we are able to determine our future. As parents, we balance the freedom we give to our children with the responsibilities they must earn. As Jews, we balance the heritage of our past with the choices we make about our future. And as a Jewish community, we balance all of these issues. This incredible country we call home has given us the freedom to choose, the responsibility to learn and the imperative to teach.
The rituals and mitzvot of Passover should inspire and guide us to become more thoughtful and grateful. The holiday, with its emphasis on renewal, is an opportunity to reflect on our own spiritual renewal and transformation – and that of our community – to being more understanding, generous and welcoming.
Wishing you and yours a joyous and meaningful Pesach,